June 20, 2018
“There she is, folks, directly overhead!”
And she was…straight overhead. An orange plane the size of an average Texas mosquito and three tiny specks of dust.
Then three red, white and blue parachutes opened, and the three skydivers began their flight.
“Can you see it, Dad, right over your head?” Wendy asked Blair. He wasn’t looking up.
He strained his head upward, “Yeah, I see it!”
The three soared, crisscrossed paths, back and forth like a choreographed dance. Then the flags emerged behind their chutes; a red, white, and blue banner, a Texas Lone Star, and the Star Spangled Banner.
Their flight was something to behold.
They weren’t flying.
They were falling.
They were young and strong, and this day they had challenged gravity.
With machines built to overcome the pull of gravity for a brief time, they rise above the earth, throwing off the shackles of the dirt beneath their feet, higher, higher, until the battleship is a small toy beneath them.
And they jump out.
Without the parachutes, it would probably be a pretty exhilarating trip, but it would end very soon, and the landing wouldn’t be very graceful.
But, with the chutes, these three could manipulate the fall. Slow the pull to the earth. Pretend to fly.
And they did well, coming in banner first, Lone Star, second, and USA, third.
A guy was waiting as the American flag descended, and caught it before it touched the ground.
Because we all spend every day of our lives dealing with this gravitational pull.
You have to fight it to live, to keep from falling, or to keep something from falling on you. Or, maybe, that one misstep when, stepping off the ladder onto the roof, and the sudden realization of nothing to step on and the sudden whoosh when gravity slams you to the ground forcing all the air from your lungs and the shock of cracked ribs.
We are always thrilled when someone challenges gravity, and masters the trapeze, climbs a mountain.
But, few have beaten gravity.
Those that leave the atmosphere and fly into space…I guess you could say they beat it.
But, they discover life without gravity is kind of inconvenient. Coffee floats out of their cups, food floats off their plates, and it’s just dadgum hard to move around where you want to go.
Gravity is not good, not bad.
Gravity just is.
Blair was 28 days from his 92nd birthday.
He had served on the Battleship Texas at the end of WW2, and today was being honored with two others who had also served about this historic dreadnought.
Not many of these guys left.
Blair was sitting on his scooter. Walking has grown more and more difficult. He always has his cane, has developed a posture where his head looks down to watch for possible trip spots that would let gravity throw him to the ground. And, it takes quite a bit of effort now to just stand up.
When Mary Jane slows her walk enough for Blair to walk beside her, you can occasionally hear her say, “Blair, hold your head up…look forward, not down.”
But, it wasn’t always like this.
When he was young, and strong, he waged his own war against this constant challenging foe.
He had joined the Navy in ’44, with his best friend, Odom. They were only 17, and their dads had to give them permission to join.
When a leave was granted, the two of them left San Diego to go home to their East Texas home in Lindale.
Odom caught the mumps, Blair stayed in Lindale with him and was late getting back to San Diego.
He was in the captain’s office.
“Well, Wright, I can see two possibilities for your late arrival. You can spend some time in the brig, or….” He paused,” You can serve on the Battleship Texas.”
Blair resisted the urge to smile, and said, “I’ll take the Texas, sir.”
And, he began to build a life, raised a family, developed a character, grew in faith, and formed a reputation.
Those that meet him, love him.
The character, the family, the reputation, all remain. Gravity has no say about that.
The ceremony this day ended with a missing soldier flyover.
And then something incredible happened.
People of all ages lined up to meet the man who had built this character and reputation over the 92 years of his life. They wanted to know what he had seen, to hear whatever stories he would tell of his time 75 years ago.
He told the first young girl, “Well, I was up on the deck by myself one day, and I saw a plane approaching. Now, I didn’t know then if it was one of ours, or one of theirs. It was pulling a banner. ‘THE WAR IS OVER’. Then another plane appeared. When it got overhead, I saw the banner it was pulling, ‘WE WON!’
“All I could think about was getting back to the Sabine River in East Texas and fishing and hunting again.”
They continued to listen. Young, old, and several volunteers who were working on the restoration process, who had never met anyone before who had actually served on the ship.
One guy, a Vietnam vet, pulled his walker up alongside Blair, sat down and said, “Yeah, I was pretty country, when I went over. One night, I said, looks like we’re in for a storm. Lightning and thunder on the horizon.
My buddies looked at each other, shook their heads, and said, ‘That’s the Viet Cong!’
I learned about fear that day!”
A young man from India, Navin, was a volunteer, and he was listening to every word, asking questions, learning history from the mouth of an historian, and he was so disappointed when Blair had to leave.
There was a lightness of spirit in Blair as he rolled off the ship to meet back with the family.
I have been thinking about gravity a lot over the last week.
It is strong, but there is a power that beats it’s hold.
Our spirit can soar even as we are shackled to this earth.
I saw it in action.
My father-in-law, L.B. Wright.
Gravity has slowed him down, but it never stopped the life.
I’ve always called him Blair.
Best friend I’ve ever had.
One of the finest men I have ever known.
“But, they that wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
MY FIRST FATHER’S DAY (Written June 18, 2018)
June 17, 1973
Wendy was a 19 year old woman.
I was a 21 year old boy.
The doctor had said, probably the end of June or early July.
We had the final two names picked out; Ethan Tyler or Chelsey Morgan.
But, today, Wendy’s parents were in Houston to see us.
We couldn’t get to Garland for Father’s Day this year, so they came to us.
I looked forward to the visit, because they usually paid for stuff; meals, gas…Money was tight at our end.
Wendy’s mom hadn’t really warmed up to me yet…but we were providing the first grandchild.
The warming wouldn’t come for another few years.
Wendy’s dad, Blair had served on the Battleship Texas the last year of World War II, so we went to San Jacinto to see the monument, the battleground, and the historic battleship.
We walked that day…a lot!
This was my first experience of hearing Blair telling stories from his past.
Stories of joining the navy, being absent over leave when his friend , Odom, came down with the mumps while they were on leave. He just couldn’t stand the thought of going back alone.
So, when he went back, he was in his commanding officer’s office.
“…there are two outcomes of this I can see,” he was telling the young (not quite 18) sailor. “We can put you in the brig…or…we can put you on the Battleship Texas.”
Blair, as calmly and contritely as he could, his heart racing with the prospect, “Sir, I guess I will take the Texas!”
I was hooked on the stories.
Wendy was pretty weary by the time we got back to Houston. We made a stop at Woolco (department store similar to Walmart) before they packed up to go back to Garland.
Wendy and her mom went one way.
Blair and I went to the tools.
He was always building stuff, fixing stuff, so we were looking at an electric drill, and an electric circular saw.
I was sure he already had these at home, but I figured he just needed an upgrade.
We went back to the apartment, and Blair handed me the bag.
“Happy Father’s Day, Randy,” he grinned.
Seriously? I had never owned a power tool of my own.
I couldn’t believe it.
I hugged them both as they left.
Wendy’s legs were swollen from all the walking.
June 18, 1973
Wendy woke up early with “labor pains.”
The doctor said that they were probably false labor, so we didn’t go in.
They did not go away. We called him back, he said to go on in to Hermann
I had practiced for this…I knew the route… I knew that if you drove down Main St at 26 mph you could hit every light green.
“Ooohhh, another one,” Wendy cried, “HURRY UP! WHY ARE YOU DRIVING SO SLOW!!!!!?”
I tried to calmly explain my theory but she had no ears to hear. I increased my speed.
We arrived at the hospital, got checked in around 1:00.
We had gone through the Lamaze training, so I was supposed to be able to be with Wendy through the whole delivery.
The sent me back to the waiting room around 7:00.
Every show on tv that night had a woman giving birth, in extreme pain.
When they came to get me at a little after 9:00, the nurse led me down a hall, outside the nursery. I stopped, looking in the window, as a nurse walked toward me carrying a little naked baby with reddish hair, sticking straight out from its head.
I looked, saw the place, and mouthed, “Girl?”
The nurse smiled and nodded, and I thought, “So, Chelsey Morgen!”
That was a really good day!
I was still five years away from recognizing the One I couldn’t hear who was telling me in a language I didn’t yet know, “I know the plans I have for you…”
I called Wendy’s parents, and my parents, and they all drove back to Houston to see this first grandchild, the amazing Chelsey Morgen Epps!
June 13, 2016
FREEDOM’S JUST ANOTHER WORD….
The great thing about freedom is that, for the most part, we can freely pursue what we think will make us happy, as long as we don’t harm others in the process.
The bad thing about freedom is that it doesn’t always guarantee happiness.
Freedom doesn’t mean that you can never be offended, or that you can always have your way, or that you can keep others from doing what you don’t like.
Freedom is not always nice, or comfortable, or pretty.
Sometimes, you think you are free, but you are really bound in virtual chains. Chains that prevent you from doing what you really want, that keep you doing things you don’t want to do. Habits you can’t break, victories you can’t win.
There is, however, a greater freedom, a freedom to live. A freedom to rise above the chains, the habits, the losses.
Believe it or not, you were created for a purpose.
Live toward that purpose, you will find freedom.
The One that created you is the only One that can make you free.
Freedom. The ability to do what you were made to do, to be what you were made to be.
The freedom to really live.
I didn’t know I had a problem.
I had one all day job. She had sent me a text with access codes, so I headed to her house.
“Gate code 5081* Gameroom code 0219, Lockbox on porch 0219.”
I pulled up to the gate, checked the text for the code, and punched in the code : 5018*.
I did it again.
I had driven 45 minutes to get here. Come on!
I looked at the text.
Yeah, you probably saw it, right?
I reversed the last two numbers.
5081*…gate opened and I was on my way.
I pulled up to the house, unloaded my equipment, walked to the front door, checked the text and entered 2019.
I thought maybe it was just stuck. No luck.
I sent her a text. “Are you sure the lockbox is 2019?”
“0219,” she texted back.
Well I wish she had told me right the first time.
I checked the text.
I finished the job. It took me about five hours.
I got a text from a new customer who happened to own a house in the area, and he wanted a bid for window cleaning at his house. I told him I would go by on my way home, so he texted me the address.
“552 E Eldorado.”
I drove into the development, looked for 525, turned around twice wondering why he gave me an odd number when all the addresses were even.
I rechecked the text.
Three times in one day?
Is this a new thing?
Is it old age?
Nah. It couldn’t be that.
Although…a lady at our church had asked me, “Randy! Why did you grow a beard?! Wendy needs to have you shave that off! It makes you look older?” She was cooking a pot of stew on the stove.
“You need to stir that pot,” I told her with a grin, “not this one.”
Maybe the energy to grow this scraggly beard is drawing important cells from my brain reserves….
Yeah! I bet that’s it!
Whew! That’s a relief!
Wendy found this picture from mid April, 1996.
Jenny, Chelsey’s cousin, said she remembers this day, that she might be the one who took the picture.
Chelsey had become Zoë’s mom two weeks earlier, a midwife assisted delivery in her house.
We were sitting in her living room.
My parents are sitting to Chelsey ‘s right.
This was their first time to see their first great granddaughter.
They had driven the two hours from Garland in Dad’s ‘91 Ford pickup.
He gave it to me a couple of years later.
Wendy’s parents sit to Chelsey’s left. They had walked over, since they lived on the same 40 acres.
Jenny (behind the camera) lived right across the creek with her parents, her sister and brother in a house we had built in the early 80’s.
Wendy and I are sitting behind the couch. We had had a financial crisis a few years earlier, probably, partly because of the huge interest rates of that time, and had to leave the house that we had built.
Craig and Belinda had bought it back from the bank to keep it from being sold to strangers.
They are still there.
We still get together for holidays, usually at the house that Wendy and I built.
The family has grown.
But three in the picture have learned first hand about the life that follows,
A life with the Lord whom all three had come to love.
Absent from the body, present with the Lord.
The birth seemed to be proceeding well on March 29, 1996. But, in the early evening, the midwife , after listening through her stethoscope, told us the baby was in distress.
Wendy and I left the room …to pray…hard.
Into God’s hands, under His care, we placed our coming granddaughter.
Her name was already chosen.
We were in the room when the birth took place.
Zoë entered the light, turned her head to take in the room, uttered a brief ”Meh”, and refused to cry.
All fingers, all toes, breath; a 10 on the scale. Everything was fine.
Except, this little baby girl, who took charge of the room when she entered, had this little nick in her left ear, not bleeding, not open, just a unique little mark of distinction.
Later, we told Zoë that the devil and the angels fought at her birth, and that was the mark of the battle.
She was always a little bit proud of her “battle scar”.
You know how memories are…brief snapshots where you have to fill in the details. I can’t remember a lot about that day, but I do remember that over the next six and a half years, we were daily involved in some way with Chelsey and Zoë, and their lives.
Zoë would stay with us while Chelsey worked, Chelsey and Zoë would spend the day with Wendy in Tyler or Longview, sometimes they would sleep over with us at our house at Lake Hawkins.
We were close…really close.
On January 11, 2001, my mom’s 72nd birthday, my mom went to heaven to celebrate.
On October 8, 2002, on our way to the State Fair of Texas with Chelsey and Zoë, we were hit by a flatbed truck, and Chelsey left this temporal world for her eternal home.
Zoë became our daughter/granddaughter.
On March 1 of 2011, my dad stepped out of his memory erased human body, stepped through the curtain to rejoin his wife and his first grandchild.
Looking at a picture, you can glance and smile, or you can remember, reflect, maybe shed a brief tear, but rejoice in all the other moments and memories that you haven’t thought of in a long, long time.
God is love.
God is good.
It is He that has made us, and we are His.
May 26, 2018
After working 49 hard physical hours in four days this week , I think I was feeling kinda proud that I, a 66 year old man, still had the chops to put in that many hours in such a short time.
Pushing through til I was done.
At one job, there were about twenty guys working to finish a house remodel before the weekend.
The oldest was maybe 55.
I was going up and down my ladder, cleaning about 50 windows, every one, all by myself.
And that was just the first of three for that day.
I had already done this three previous days.
Leaving the house at 7:00 or 7:30, getting home 11 to 13 hours later.
“I’ve still got it”, I was thinking…
I have this voice in my head:
(Randy, some people I give the ability to be wise in financial management,
some I give the ability to work for a company and retire.
You I gave a good metabolism and a good work ethic and a good amount of endurance.
Because, I Love You
And you’ll probably need it.)
God takes care of His children…
Especially the idiots…